Tag Archives: credit card fraud

Sears, Book Sales, Credit Card Marketing & Bruce Springsteen

NBC news reports, as of an hour ago, that Sears in the U.S. may be filing for bankruptcy in the next few days. A few years ago I commented that Sears and Best Buy wouldn’t last: Sears Canada went under this January, and now in the U.S. where they has not been profitable for eight years. Best Buy is still around, but shrinking a lot in the U.S.

Great news: Books are back! As someone who has written 18, and has nine actively selling books, I loved that news. Hardcover sales are up 5% in the last five years, and softcover books are up over 17% in that time. The Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers are fading, but then, it’s always been known that your retention reading from a screen is less than an actual physical book.

The sad news is that 33% of high school graduates, and 42% of university grads, never read another book the rest of their lives. (from a book industry study group) Yet, if someone reads only two books on credit, finance, and/or investing they’d be smarter, and significantly better off than 95% of all adults…and that includes most bank staff!

Two banks right now are heavily promoting their credit cards by touting that they have fraud alerts to protect you. Sorry, but that’s marketing and not factual. You’re totally protected against fraud by federal law and not by the good graces of credit card companies. If it wasn’t your charge, it’ll be taken off your statement and they’ll issue you a new card – period. Don’t fall for the marketing. If you’re looking for a new credit card  you need to remember three tips:

Cut up the one it’s replacing but don’t cancel it with the card issuer or it’ll drop your credit score. Cutting it up keeps it alive but also keeps you from the temptation of using that one, too! If you ignore that advice, there’s an 80% chance you’ll have your old one and your new one maxed out within two years. If you sometimes run a balance, it needs to be one of the 11.9% rate cards. If you always pay in full, look for the perks that you’ll actually use and a low annual rate.

Sometimes fraudsters are really clever and I certainly have a lot of empathy for people who are victims. But I have zero sympathy for a lady named Mary. She was conned out of $11,500 by a Bruce Springsteen impersonator (first reported by CBS Chicago). The story was that Springsteen was getting a divorce so all his money was tied up and needed iTunes gift cards and cash. Springsteen, along with New England NFL player Rob Gronkowski (who’s actually in the Money Tools book) are two of the most conservative public figures with their money! Sorry, Mary, but I can’t find an ounce of sympathy: A zillionaire is hitting you up for a few buck? And he wants it in iTunes gift cards? And he does it off his Facebook fan page?

Visa Hackers & Free Banking

Researchers at Newcastle University found that criminals can hack your Visa card in less than 10 seconds. All they have is your card number and what they’re missing is the three digit security code and the expiry date.

With just a laptop and a simple computer program, they run all the possible combinations of your security code and the expiry. In just a few seconds they have all the information they need to start shopping online.

It only works with Visa who doesn’t have a blocking system when multiple tries are made with your card. MasterCard and Amex block the criminal after just a few incorrect attempts. Now don’t panic. You’re never liable if your card is misused – ever! But wouldn’t you think Visa would care about absorbing millions of dollars in fraudulent charges?

If you’re turning 60 or 65 this year, write a note on your calendar: You’ll be able to get much of your banking service charges stopped! Credit unions are at age 60, but you’ll have to check with your specific bank if they’re at 60 or 65. I do know the Royal is now age 65 as they just changed it. Ah, how to legally rip off tens of thousands of seniors for millions of dollars…it’s detailed in the Money Tools book in the banking chapter.

Lots Of Financial News In Just a Week!

Canadian banks are kind of ashamed they’re Canadian. Bank of Nova Scotia is now Scotiabank, Toronto Dominion is TD, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has been CIBC for a long time, and the Bank of Montreal is BMO.

Last week, the Royal Bank went on a huge wave across the country to replace all their branch signs to read: RBC Royal Bank. The next wave will be to do away with the Royal Bank part altogether. Oh how I want to be in the sign business. In Canada it’s cool to be Canadian, but in the rest of the world, they don’t want to advertise that at all.

The RCMP in BC want to get the word out on a new phone/credit card scam. The crooks already have your stolen credit card number and give you a lot of information to put you at ease. All they’re after is the three digit security code and they can go crazy with online purchases. It’s the last and only thing they ask for, claiming they just need to “verify that you’re the cardholder.” Don’t ever talk to anyone about your credit card. Hang up the phone and dial only the number on the back of your card! Here’s the link from the RCMP:

Last week, CBC’s Marketplace did a short story on breakfast sandwiches. They’re loaded with fat, get you two-thirds of the daily sodium and a ton of calories. But here’s an alternative diet plan: Last week, New Hampshire just rolled out new scratch and win lottery tickets. They are now bacon flavoured. So grab your coffee and just sniff the lottery ticket. You’ll still lose, but you’ll win on the calories, fat, and sodium reduced breakfast!

Also last week, TD rolled out a ton more new ATM machines. These ones are optical readers. Just insert the cheque or cash you’re depositing. No more envelopes and you don’t even need to key in the amount of the cheque. Your receipt will print out a picture of the cheque you deposited. It was only last year we talked about taking a picture of a cheque with your smartphone and it’s deposited. Boy, how technology is advancing quickly.

The middle of last week, the Bank of Canada cut the bank rate by a quarter of a point. We’re a resource country and they’re seriously concerned with our economy with oil dropping by almost 50%. Within 24-hours, the banks cut most of their savings accounts interest rates by a quarter point. But they also announced that, no – they’re not cutting their lending or mortgage rates. So savers get ripped off and borrowers get hosed in order to make another few billion dollars. NOT nice and not right!

Have You Used Your Credit Card at Target or Home Depot?

Another week brought another massive data breach. Three weeks ago, hackers got into Home Depot main computer and managed to steal information on 56 million credit cards. That was just the latest – but also one of the biggest, breaking the Target data breach of 40 million earlier this year. To paraphrase a quote from the FBI: It’s like having 15,000 bank robberies that can be done from someone’s basement. Plus, it’s a lot more lucrative, and the odds of getting caught or prosecuted are minute.

The crooks installed malware into the Home Depot system and were then able to download all the history of credit cards and transactions. Shame on Home Depot, because it was the same way it was done at Target. They didn’t learn the lesson, or didn’t learn it fast enough. I did learn something: I wasn’t sure retailers were really that interested in protecting their information. But it turns out that they are. Target has spent over $110 million since the breach on fixing the leaks and customers don’t trust them anymore as their sales are down five percent since then. That’s a staggering amount.

And a week ago, JPMorgan Chase was hacked over a two week period impacting 83 million of their customers. The PR speak right now is that they are “not aware” of any confidential client information having been hacked….in other words: they don’t really know yet. Gees, you’d think that if I broke into your house you’d notice it in less than two weeks!

Most people tend to be in two camps on these data breaches: They either get really freaked out, or they’re complacent and just don’t seem to care. In Canada, we’re luckier than our friends south of the border. Our credit cards all have the chip technology. Since a couple of years ago, when you use your credit card, you’ll need to enter a PIN in order to get the transaction through. So for us, it’s OK to not worry. What the thieves stole was a one-off transaction for what you bought at Target, Home Depot, or other stores that have been hacked. That transaction went through, so the information is of little interest to the thieves.

You should always look through all of your credit card transactions. That’s just common sense and just a good precaution against any charges that aren’t yours. If you find any, you’re never liable. Just call the 800 number on the back of your card and the charges will be removed and you’ll be issued a new card.

Thieves steal credit card information in order to make a duplicate card that they can then use in stores to mostly buy electronic stuff or gift cards – anything they can readily re-sell or fence and turn into cash. The other way is to sell these card numbers to other crooks. I bet my American Express is for sale on a bunch of the crooks’ chat rooms as I’ve certainly used it at Target, Home Depot, Marshalls, and a number of other store chains that have been hacked.

Stealing credit card numbers in the U.S. is easy and very profitable for the crooks. In the U.S., card holders there should freak. The U.S. still uses credit card technology that was developed in the 1960s. Swipe and sign and that’s it. No PIN means crooks have a credit card they can use over and over, and not just a one-off transaction.

The big advantage U.S. citizens have is that they can freeze their credit reports. If crooks can’t access your credit files, they can’t commit identity theft and borrow money as if they were you. That’s something that’s long overdue in Canada and would eliminate close to 99% of identity theft.

Is Your Credit Card Safe?

If you have your credit card handy, here is something that really worries me, and I sure didn’t know: Call the 800 number on the back of your card, enter your credit card number, and you can click 1 or click 4 or whatever prompt to get your balance. But, with some card issuers, there may be no point in there where you need to enter your PIN number! In other words, anyone who has your credit card number can get your balance inside of ten seconds – they don’t even need your card!

The first four digits of your card number identify the bank. So if your card starts with 4535, it’s from Scotiabank. If it’s 4510, it’s the Royal Bank. And if you have a Scotia Visa card, there is no need to identify yourself to get the balance. Never mind what fraudsters can do with it, isn’t there something seriously wrong with that? By the way, American Express does make you enter your PIN number, Royal asks for the last four digits of your home phone number, and Capital One MasterCard asks for your date of birth to assure it’s really you.

I get about 10 to 20 credit card payments a month. Should I be able to access those clients’ balances? I can’t get their credit bureau report and calling their credit card issuer won’t get me anywhere. But I can get their balance? There’s something very wrong here, especially now that almost every cardholder has a chip card that does come with a PIN number already!

Unfortunately, the Federal Privacy Commission has chosen not to respond to my SOS inquiry over the last eight days. However, this matter is worth pursuing: Next stop is the Federal Finance Minister’s office. Stay tuned…

Identity Theft: It was almost like being raped!

That was a newspaper headline from the Edmonton Journal. Yes, sensationalism sells, but this time, the quote was accurate and justified.

The story was about a young lady from Edmonton, who had her wallet stolen out of her car, and became a victim of identity theft.

When her wallet was stolen four months earlier she has simply called her credit card company to cancel her card and also had her drivers’ license replaced. But that was just the beginning of her nightmare of identity theft.

Along the way, she was actually investigated for fraud, and went through a virtual hell in having her bank accounts cleaned out. She discovered her identity theft while trying to make a purchase at Walmart. When she used her debit card, the cashier told her no, there wasn’t sufficient money. She tried her credit card next, and it was also declined.

When she called her bank from the parking lot, they asked her if she had just opened a new account at another branch? No, she hadn’t. But someone had, and used her identity. It got worse, since the crook deposited empty envelopes in the ATM machines, and stole another $10,000 out of her accounts from these phony deposits, off this new and fraudulent account.

The credit bureau wouldn’t help her on the phone, and I’m stunned she was even able to reach a human being at Equifax Canada. The only thing they told her was that SHE was now under investigation for fraud.

Then came the calls from the collections departments of Esso and Shell, Home Hardware and Sears, the financed van, and more – none of which were hers. And that was in between the trips to the police station and banks. All in all, the crooks used her identify to run up more than $100,000 in charges. The lenders and banks absorbed the losses, but you have to believe that a break-in at home would be less scary or frightening than identity theft.

As this lady found out, studies have shown that it takes an average of more than 30 to 150 hours of work for someone who has been a victim of identity theft. And that doesn’t include the anger, fear, credit hassles, and psychological trauma.

Oh, and one more thing that you probably don’t want to hear: It didn’t apply to this lady, but the vast majority of identity theft is committed by someone you know. While you can’t entirely prevent identity theft, you can take some easy steps to make your odds pretty tiny:

-Do not give anyone your PIN numbers
-Don’t use the same PIN number everywhere, and do change it every six months or so
-Have as little ID as you need in your wallet. You do NOT need your Social Insurance -Number in your wallet every day, and don’t need all your credit and debit cards with you every hour of every day
-Do not leave any I.D. in your car – ever.
-Empty your mailbox every day. Junk mail or credit card mailers have a lot of information on them
-Get a shredder. Do not put your personal information in your garbage.
-Check your credit report. You are entitled to a free report once a year. Pay for it if you need it more often to see if there is something weird happening
-Know your credit card statement dates. If it doesn’t show up, make the call. It may have been re-directed by the crooks
-Always check the transactions on your credit card and bank statements
-Never give out personal information on the phone or on an e-mail

And if you have been a victim of identity theft, your first visit is to the police station to file a report. No matter who it was, if you know, you will be liable if you do not file the report. Don’t protect a crooked friend or relative, because you will be liable if you haven’t taken the first step of proving these were not your transactions.

Three Short Insights You Should Know

J.D. Power Fall 2009 Credit Card Satisfaction Survey

Each fall J.D. Powers conducts a very comprehensive credit card survey. It rates overall satisfaction, along with how happy cardholders are with their rewards, payment processing, problem resolution, customer service, and fees.

This year, American Express rated five stars, head and shoulders above other national card issuers in all categories. At the bottom of the bottom, with the worst score on customer’s satisfaction with their credit cards were Capital One, along with GE Money. GE is a surprise, as they handle the Wal Mart cards, and Wal Mart prides itself on great customer service! As to Capital One – what’s in your wallet? I hope it’s not one of their cards!

But the scary response to the survey was that 53% of us did not know the interest rate on their card, even though it is printed on every statement. Not knowing that we are paying around 20% on our credit cards is not good news!

Scotiabank can’t be happy with a bunch of national press recently. But there’s a great lesson for anyone over age 59 to learn! All banks offer seniors a no charge service banking packages, or greatly reduced service charges at various ages, but for most it’s at age 59. Barry Ashpole, a 66-year old college teacher, had the TD and Royal automatically lower his fees, because all the banks have your birth date on file. But Scotia kept charging him the full service charges for seven more years! When he discovered the huge overcharges, he hit a wall of no help to get this reversed, and fought it all the way to their Ombudsman’s office. At that point, he received a six month refund of $71. They wouldn’t refund the other six and a half years! You need to make sure you know when you are entitled to a break of the huge service charges, or you’ll get taken, as Barry Ashpole found out the VERY expensive way.

And a final update on your credit cards: Time and time again, I point out how critical it is to check your credit card statement line by line. Stuff shows up that’s not yours, merchants who accidentally, or because of a kinky staff member, charge things twice, and all kinds of errors can and do happen. But less than 10% of us look at our statement items – and that number is way lower if you get your statement on-line!

There is a phrase you need to know. It’s called post transactional marketing. You buy something from a retailer on-line, or join a web site. Often you’ll get a pop-up asking you to join a loyalty program for deals, alerts, or whatever. Be careful, because in many instances, these pages look like they come from the retailer, but they’re third parties, and deeply buried in the fine print is a note that you’re actually going to have a monthly fee charged to your credit card! And it’s not small business, but the 1-800 Flowers, Barnes & Noble, airlines, Priceline and buy.com sites!

Be careful, as these marketers have scammed people out of over $1.5 billion so far, Facebook has now been hit with a class action lawsuit, alleging that they allow, promote, or profit from these post transactional marketing, and the U.S. Congress is holding hearings on the issue.

High Tech Credit Cards Are On the Way

Finally, credit card issuers are coming out with technology that isn’t from the 1960s and hasn’t changed since the invention of the cards.

They’re changing from the current swipe card with a magnetic stripe to a pin number and chip-type card. For the transition it’ll still have that old magnetic stripe, but also an embedded microchip.

These new cards are already being issued. The Royal is putting them out and remember I told you about a super cool Capital One 6.9 fixed card? I got it with the microchip today. As merchants get new point-of-sale terminals you’ll insert it and use a PIN number just like your debit card. So no more slip to sign because your PIN number is your identification.

What it’ll do is to drastically reduce the $300 million in credit card fraud. Now most of the time when merchants haven’t taken the basic steps, they’re liable for the fraud charges. The rest of the time, the card issuers eat the loss. Until now, that loss hasn’t been as expensive as converting the cards.

No, they’re not doing the conversion because they have much interest in identity theft or helping you. On fraud, you’re also not liable for any of the phony charges. Never have been. They’re doing the conversion because it’s going to be cheaper for them to convert to the new cards instead of seeing the fraud amounts increasing each year.

It’s been in use in Europe for a very long time but the conversion and rollout in Canada will be slow. If you get the new cool card it’ll work exactly like your old one did until all merchants have the new point-of-sale machines where you insert the card, not swipe it. It’s just that this new card has a little chip in it.

This year, about 4.5 million of these will be in your hands. By October 2010 it’ll be fully implemented, because about 90% of all cards will have expired and replaced.

What this’ll also start is a huge wave of contact-less cards that are NFC enabled. For tech people, that’s Near Field Communication. Nokia will have it in their cell phones next year and by next summer, Rodgers will be doing their trial a trial. It’ll let you just wave it past a merchants’ scanner and pay for something. It’ll be exactly like the Esso and Shell payfast keyfobs but it’ll be your Visa or MasterCard.

In all this, you still have to remember why they’re doing it. It’s never to help you but to get you to use your card a whole lot more. And especially in the small-ticket purchases that add up to tens of billions of dollars that card issuers really want a huge piece of!

After all, we spend almost 20% more when we use a credit card instead of cash. Mark my words: Two or three years from now the percentage of small-ticket purchases on credit card will be way up. Card issuers will get richer and you’ll go further in debt so this is not a win-win arrangement, trust me.